17: notes on the name Tiree and Tiree Gaelic
Written in June 2023, completed 17th of July 2023. This section provides a brief introduction to the island's name, some of the features of Tiree Gaelic, classification of the dialect, some phonetic information and further resources by the author. This section (including title) contains: 1129 words.


This section does not contain field-research (except for a-màireach as an example), for my separate field research on Tiree Gaelic, discussing other aspects of Tiree Gaelic a link will be given to the book where this research is published at the bottom of this section/page. This section in the book also talks about Tiree's prehistory and archaeology. I will also reference at the end of this section/page another article, published in a different ebook, which discusses something of Tiree place-names and Gaelic.

Tiree is one of two islands close to each other, Tiree, the other being Coll, which lie some distance northwest of Mull, west of Ardnamurchan, and roughly south of the Small Isles and southeast of the Outer Hebridean islands such as Mingulay, Barra and Eriskay. Tiree and Coll are considered to be 'Inner Hebridean' islands, however, from the feel I got from around these islands, they are in a sense their own 'group', with a rather unique and separate identity and history from that of the other Hebridean Islands.

The Gaelic dialect of Tiree, and that of Coll, would be considered 'Northern Argyll Gaelic' dialects. However, as I mentioned above, Tiree and Coll do constitute a kind of 'separate' area, and this applies to the language too; so whilst Tiree Gaelic may be technically a North Argyll dialect; many of the features of Tiree Gaelic, including its beautiful and unique prosody, are unique to this island, meaning that 'Tiree and Coll Gaelic' could be considered a separate dialect area, perhaps a branch of Argyll Gaelic and perhaps not. Tiree Gaelic also shares some things in common with Outer Hebridean dialects, like that of Barra, but these similarities tend to be quite slight and indirect; although sometimes the prosody of certain Tiree Gaelic speakers' may sound somewhat similar to that of some Barra Gaelic speakers.

Tiree is known in Gaelic as Tiriodh. According to Wiktionary (where no source is provided), the origin of the name Tiree/Tiriodh is Old Norse Týrvist, "Týr's abode". Whilst a connection with the God Týr is possible, I think that, as I have made mention of in many of my previous ebooks and website articles/sections, that many of the so-called 'Norse' elements in the islands may be pre-Indo-European in origin, and instead represent something of a more ancient people speaking a language in some way connected to Norse, and to Scandinavia, but that this language itself was not Norse and perhaps not even Indo-European. Most of the 'Norse' elements in Gaelic are in my opinion from an older, possibly Bronze-Age or even earlier group of peoples who were already connected to Scandinavia and to Scotland long before the so-called Viking Age. This ties into some of my other work on 'Finns' and 'Danes' as mentioned in Scottish and Irish history; although in this article I do not aim to discuss this in more detail.

Tiree is also known in Gaelic as Tìr an Eòrna ‘the land of barley’. This poetic name is perhaps applied due to the fertile lands of the island, and the generally good weather, in comparison to many of the Outer Hebrides for example, where the ground is often too rocky or peaty to allow much arable farming.


Some of the main points of Tiree Gaelic are given below.


.In the standard spelling -idh and -igh frequently becomes [iç] or [ixʲ] in Argyll dialects of Scottish Gaelic. In my writing for Arran Gaelic, I indicate this in the spelling, e.g. ryich – ‘run’, standard ruith. An example from Tiree Gaelic, is the pronunciation of ìomhaigh ‘image’ as [iːvaç] (1), with no nasalisation present in this word.

.As is the case in parts of Argyll (particularly Mull), Tiree Gaelic possesses a form of glottalisation between certain syllables, e.g. in leabaidh ‘bed’ (1), where the glottalisation occurs between -ea- and -b-.

.Although the glottal stop is not as frequent as in many Argyll Gaelic dialects, it does occur, for example replacing orthographic th in the word giuthas Scots pine tree (1), but not in gobhar ‘goat’ (1), for example. In words like gobhar ‘goat’, and latha ‘day’, Tiree Gaelic has no glottal stop (1), and seemingly no hiatus (1), so the vowels in gobhar are pronounced as two vowels in succession, [oʊ] (1), those in latha are pronounced as two vowels in succession, [aa] (1).
.The slender r in Tiree Gaelic has a tendency to disappear
or to become some kind of semivowel, except at the start of a word or after a consonant cluster. An example of slender r becoming a kind of semivowel can be heard in the word imir – ‘ridge’ (1). When recently on the island of Tiree, I also heard the pronunciation of a-màireach - 'tomorrow', where the slender r in this word is also silent or approaches a semivowel.
.As is the case on Mull, the slender ‘d’ in Tiree Gaelic is closer to [dᶻ] or [tᶻ] (1).


References: all of the example words given above, except for a-màireach, are explained in accordance with their phonetic pronunciation in the Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland, edited by Cathair Ó Dochartaigh. (1) is given after points where information from this source is shared.


Further information by the author on Tiree and Tiree Gaelic:

1) Scottish Gaelic dialects and ancient languages in Scotland – Dualchainntean na Gàidhlig agus cànanan àrsaidh ann an Alba, pages 94 and 95 in Languages and dialects of Northwestern Europe, and their heritage (this ebook is available to download on the Ebooks (separate from website content, 8 ebooks plus 4 earlier versions of some of them) section of this website.
2) A further section including Tiree Gaelic fieldwork notes, and notes on mythology and archaeology, can be found in my book An exploration of Gaelic dialects, other languages, and other sections including the missing Omniglot article, which is available to download on the New ebooks from 5th of May 2023 onwards (also separate from website's online pages/content) section of this website, from pages 58 to the end of page 64 in the ebook An exploration of Gaelic dialects, other languages, and other sections including the missing Omniglot article. The same section is also published previously in another ebook on this page, titled Gaelic dialects, language connections and other topics pertaining to language, although this slightly older book does not contain the edits and additional material that An exploration of Gaelic dialects, other languages, and other sections including the missing Omniglot article contains.